News: Loyal Veteran - Honor Flight (Roger Mielke – 2018)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Mielke

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 11/07/2018

Loyal Veteran Goes On Never Forgotten Honor Flight (Mielke – 2018)

Just over 100 veterans from north central Wisconsin, including Roger Mielke of Loyal, were recently honored on an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D. C. They viewed the memorials there, including Lincoln Memorial. (Submitted photos)

By Valerie Brecht

Veterans Day will soon be here, a day set aside to honor veterans and their service. One local veteran recently was honored in a very special way.

Roger Mielke of Loyal went on a Never Forgotten Honor Flight in October, along with 102 other veterans. They viewed memorials erected in their honor in Washington, D. C., on a daylong, all expense -paid trip.

The Never Forgotten Honor Flight is a Wausau-based organization, formed in 2009. It is part of the Honor Flight Network and serves veterans from 13 counties in northern and central Wisconsin. Veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam War are eligible.

On Mielke’s flight, there was one World War II veteran, two Korean War veterans and the rest served in Vietnam. Veterans from nearby communities included those from Pittsville, Marshfield and Medford.

Mielke’s Military Experience

Mielke is a Vietnam veteran. He served in the U. S. Army and was drafted in April 1968. He went to Fort Campbell, KY, for Basic Training and then to Fort Sill, OK, for Advanced Individual Training (AIT). Mielke became an artillery surveyor as his military occupational specialty. After completing AIT, he was an artillery surveyor instructor at Fort Sill for about eight months.

In January 1969, Mielke went to Vietnam, and he stayed there through January 1970, when he reached his expiration of term of service. He served in the Army Reserve from 1970 to 1988.

While in Vietnam, Mielke worked to fix vehicles as a mechanic, among other duties.

“I started out surveying fire points for artillery and then we would be on rocket detail,” he said. “In the base camp, if we got rocket attacks, we went out to locate the rockets and get what direction they came from.”

He also served as a radio operator for the infantry when they were short-staffed.

“And the last half I spent out in a small Vietnamese village as a forward observer, which I was the only U. S. person out there, and I would be about four or five miles outside of base camp, and at night I’d be up all night observing any movement,” said Mielke. “At night, nobody could be out there because it was a favored route for the Viet Cong to come in and get close enough to fire rockets into the base camp. So, whenever there was movement out there, I would call artillery.”

After Vietnam, Mielke served in the National Guard from 1970 until 1988, when he retired from the military.

The Honor Flight

Upon arriving back at the airport after the Never Forgotten Honor Flight #34, veterans were greeted by a large crowd of supporters. Above, Roger Mielke of Loyal shakes hands with a fellow veteran. (Submitted Photo)

Mielke found out about the flight through a posting at the Loyal American Legion. After hearing from a veteran who had gone on the flight, Mielke decided to apply.

Due to the long wait list – more than 1,100 veterans are currently on the list – it was about three years before Mielke got the chance to fly. He was notified in August and on Oct. 14, the 34th Honor Flight flew out of the Central Wisconsin Airport at Mosinee.

This was Mielke’s first time visiting Washington D. C. He and the other veterans visited the Vietnam, Lincoln, Korean, Iwo Jima, Air Force and World War II memorials.

“Of them, the most moving probably was the Korean Memorial, with the reflection wall where you take a picture on the wall and then you see the soldiers behind you like you’re right with the soldiers,” Mielke commented.

The Korean memorial was one of several memorials that Roger Mielke got to visit on a Never Forgotten Honor Flight in October. He also saw the Vietnam, Iwo Jima, Air Force and World War II memorials, among other sights in the nation’s capital. (Submitted Photo)

The veterans saw the Washington Monument as well, and the Pentagon and the White House from their tour bus.

They also visited Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the changing of the guard and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A wife of a soldier who had passed away laid the wreath. Mielke said seeing the cemetery was on of the things that would stick with him from the trip.

“I had seen it on TV and that but driving through on the bus was – TV doesn’t really show the scope of how big that cemetery is. I was just astounded,” he said.

Throughout the trip, Mielke had the chance to talk to several other veterans, including a couple of pilots, someone who served in the Navy and some Marines who were in Vietnam.

The full day of traveling was capped off with a “welcome home” for the veterans when they arrived back at the airport, family members, friends and others were there to applaud and greet the veterans. Mielke said it was a moving experience.

“Especially when we got back to the airport, it was packed full in the entry way. One row was nothing but Legion and VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] people to greet you and the other side must have been six {or} seven people deep … and one at a time, you shook hands,” he said. “[We] got the welcoming that we didn’t get when we came home from Vietnam in ‘70’.”

Mielke said the Honor Flight was a great experience, and he would recommend it to other veterans.

“The Honor Flight people were so friendly … it’s an excellent organization,” he said.

Mielke and his wife Bev live in Loyal. They have five children: Sarah, Jason, Kayla, Keith and Kyle. Mielke works part-time at Grassland Dairy Products. He is a 23-year member of the American Legion Post 175 in Loyal.

Loyal veteran Roger Mielke went on a Never Forgotten Honor Flight Oct. 15. Above, Mielke is shown with his wife Bev upon his welcome home. (Submitted Photo)



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